Well visitors, thanks for visiting Mammoth Lakes, the cradle of Eastern Sierra civilization (we do have putt-putt, after all).
We share a strong kinship here with our Greek brethren. After all, Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi both medaled at the 2004 Summer Games. This proved that high-altitude training is very effective at conditioning the body. The mind is apparently another matter.
Like the Greeks, we rely too heavily on a tourist economy and have gotten ourselves into a bit of a fiscal pickle.
Fortunately, this is America, so our protests are relatively benign (getting worked up is just so incongruent with the mood we try to evoke at our marijuana dispensaries).
Austerity measures generally involve keeping our children’s bathing suits dry.
Like Greece, part of our fiscal insolvency stems from our past inability to curb the growth of our local taxeating population (government is just so effective at creating work for itself).
Although lately, we’ve been forced to pare Town Staff – generally via generous retirement buyouts, as we kick the can down the road and stick it to future generations.
Kick the Can. Now that’s a fun game and will soon become a staple of the Town’s Recreation program. a.) It’s a free activity, and b.) since we have a penchant for eliminating the taxeaters who actually clean and fix and protect stuff while keeping the ones who sit at desks and push paper and think up clever and expensive fees. This means c.) there should be plenty of cans lying around to kick, as we only have money left in the budget to fund a Bear Whisperer, not a Can Whisperer.
Speaking of clever and expensive fees, the Town recently charged the Mammoth Lakes Lions Club $158 for a permit for its July 4 pancake breakfast.
The Lions are a non-profit organization that gives out approximately $10,000 every year in student scholarships. Scholarships that are more important than ever as the state balances its budget by gutting higher education and hiking tuition fees.
But I digress.
The greater part of our fiscal insolvency stems from a recent legal judgment which went against the Town. We double-dealt against a property developer (Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition) and lost. Big time. The sordid details are archived at www.thesheetnews.com.
So we are a Town with essentially an $18 million budget (Town of Mammoth Lakes plus Mammoth Lakes Tourism), which currently owes 200% of its annual GDP to a bunch of lawyers and hedge fund managers.
Ain’t that America. Home of the free. But don’t even think of painting your house pink. See b. above. Our Community Development Department can’t stop anyone from illegally renting their home or otherwise protecting the Town’s most lucrative revenue stream (room tax), but it’s quite effective at regulating paint colors.
Mammoth’s Mayor is selected on a rotational basis from among its five Councilmembers. Jo Bacon recently took the gavel from outgoing Mayor Skip Harvey.
The Sheet spoke with Mayor Bacon via telephone this week to get her State of the Town report.
As Bacon observed, at a recent homeowner’s association meeting she attended, fully half of the second homeowners weren’t even aware of the airport litigation judgment.
However, when they were made aware, they immediately wanted to know who was to blame, what about insurance, etc.
Foertunately, the explanation is so byzantine they probably all nodded off in the middle (like George Shirk), allowing Bacon to escape.
Bacon said her top priority is to determine the correct LOS (level of service) the Town needs to provide on everything.
Key categories she listed off the top of her head were health and safety, roads and infrastructure.
“There’s a difference between funky and falling apart,” she said. “We have to provide a [good] visitor experience to achieve T.O.T. (room tax revenue).
She promised hard choices that will not please everyone.
Sheet: What will the typical visitor to Mammoth notice most [in terms of decreased LOS]?
Bacon: Potholes. A decreased LOS for transit. [Less expeditious] snow removal. She also said public safety needs to get more creative. This is not Riverside, and general rules of thumb (like having one deputy for every 1,000 in permanent population) may not apply.
In regard to the airport, Bacon said, “I am concerned with how much General Fund money is going into the airport without concrete evidence of returns … all of us are putting much more in than we’re getting out.”
Sheet: Is that a place to look at for cuts?
When I spoke with Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory on Wednesday, he said, in regard to the airport litigation judgment: “Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, nor anyone else, should take the view that it’s ‘not my problem.’ We need another revenue stream [dedicated to the settlement], and the Mountain will participate.”
That funding stream, he said, could either be tapped from a new source or an existing one.
In terms of Bacon’s view of the airport, he said, “her comment is probably true today [that the return lags behind the investment], but it’s a long-term investment.”
Lex Quintero, 13, a Mammoth Middle Schooler, has volunteered her services to The Sheet this summer. Her first assignment was to review the new playground equipment at Mammoth Creek Park.
“The new equipment and the old equipment is as different as night and day! The new equipment looks like something you could buy at Kmart. It has smaller play materials and doesn’t include many of the old equipment materials. The old stuff looked like a castle! It was so beautiful and the kids enjoyed it so much. Not only was it better in size but also in beauty. There are some nice editions to the park though. This includes; more swings, monkey bars, a rock wall and … bug cars. I acually tried the bug cars and I still don’t even know how to work them and if I can’t figure it out then I know 6 year olds can’t. Despite the new editions, the town still didn’t replace the loved classics including, bumpy slides, tunnel slides, a bouncy bridge and more. Plus, the sand is being replaced with wood chips. Who would choose wood chips over sand? People who don’t play in parks.”